cuke beetles just starting in on well established cucumber patch

jludman(5)July 19, 2012

I planted 3 separate spots with cucumbers this year (straight 8, and a burpee pickling variety). I have been inspecting the plants 2 or 3 times every day and manually killing every cuke beetle I see. Most are striped, but I have killed 5 or 10 spotted ones as well.

The 1 patch where I hadn't seen them at all until 2 days ago is growing awesome. I have only seen 1 pair of beetles there so far. It is overflowing in every directions its 4'x 5' patch, and almost fully covering the 3' tall A-frame trellis. It also shaded out the radishes I put in there as a beetle repellent. The last week I've been picking 5 pickle sized cukes every day. I really only need 1 or 2.

In future years, I will ensure all my cucurbits are wilt-resistant, but it's too late for that this year.

Can a really healthy patch survive at all in the face of some wilt bacteria? If the picking season is really 5-6 weeks, maybe my yield will still be okay if I don't take extreme measures to kill all the beetles?

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Strong and healthy plants can better withstand attacks from insect pests then can plants growing with nutrient imbalances or lack of nutrients. There have been numnerous studies that demonstrate that over the years. However, that does not mean plants will not be hit by insect pests.
There are numerous strategies a gardener can use to help protect what we grow from these buggers. Starting, of course with the soil, being sure the soils pH is where it should be and the nutrients are in balance and there is sufficient organic matter in that soil. Companion planting, including trap crops over aways, covering the plants with Floating Row Covers (making sure you are not trapping the insect pest inside), encouraging beneficials to hang around by planting things they can feed on until their favorite prey comes along, and then using the least toxic stuff when necessary, but not spraying poisons before absolutely needed.
For this year squishing any eggs you find can be of some help. If Insecticidal Soaps are not enough then maybe Neem Oil products might help, keeping in mind even those are broad spectrum poisons that will kill beneficials as well as pests.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:18AM
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Well, I returned my Sevin spray a couple days ago, because when I found that it was going to wipe out all my earthworms, in addtition to many beneficial flyers, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I did use floating row covers until flowering, companion plantings (radishes and marigolds), and my soil is like 50% homemade compost. When I directly sprayed a cucumber beetle with the Neem Oil, I swear they used it as a sexual lubricant... The problem is the Erwinia tracheiphila bacteria which I expect will wipe out my entire crop very soon. I had this in my pumpkins last year, and the main stem exploded with yellow/orange puss, and the 2 pumpkins totaling over 150# basically liquefied in like 5 days. The only targeted poison (Adios) was pulled from the market for lack of sales volume.

Good idea to keep looking for the eggs, I hadn't been doing that. There are some Fall and Spring precautions to interrupt the lifecycle that I'll try. Could prevent the striped ones, but the spotted travel around looking for cucurbits. But, next year I'm just not planting anything that isn't resistant to that disease.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 8:44AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm going to strongly suggest that you learn about 'Surround', a specially formulated kaolin clay product that has been used for many years to protect a wide range of orchard and field crops. It is used to prevent damage to foliage, stems, and fruit caused by certain pests. Cucumber beetle damage can be greatly reduced.

When mixed with water and sprayed for good coverage, the white clay coating acts as a barrier. It even prevents egg laying of those insects using your plants as hosts for their voracious hatchlings.

This product is readily available, at reasonable prices, in amounts that backyard growers (like me) find useful.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:17AM
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Hadn't seen that before, thanks. I'll give it a try. Says it reduces the temp by 10-15 degrees. Maybe I can use it to squeeze a couple extra weeks out of my snap peas next year!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:48AM
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I am just realizing now that poorly performing cucurbits in previous years suffered from vine borers. I had attributed all the problems to bacterial wilt before. My summer squash, zucchini and pumpkins all have them this year. Tried the surgery on one of the pumpkins, but I'm not optimistic for survival.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 2:33PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

jludman, that reduction of surface temperature is the main reason why I use Surround every year! It really improves the quality of the fruit and reduces heat/sun stress.

It does stick to the veggies, if it hasn't worn off by the time you harvest, but washes off pretty easily. It's used, commercially, to protect all kinds of fruit from scald, especially tomatoes! And squash leaves will stop wilting from heat stress during the day.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 10:54PM
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Here is a picture of Cuke beetles being caught with a Strube's stink bug trap in Illanois. They are highy attracted to light.

Here is a link that might be useful: Traps

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 3:59AM
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